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Disparity between reading and writing level

(14 Posts)
SchoolWhizz Mon 17-Nov-14 10:05:16

Parents' evening. DS (Year 6, so still old curriculum and old NC levels) is working at a Level 5b in reading and 3b in writing. His teacher points out that it is extremely unusual to see such a wide variation, and in view of his reading skills, is confident that his writing can be pulled up to national expectations of 4b by SATS time, even though this represents greater than usual progress.

I am less sure. DS finished KS1 on a 2a (which I did think was overly generous), then Year 3 on 3c and Year 4 on 3b. His teachers have been encouraging about his progress. His Year 5 pointed out that although he was still on a 3b, this wasn't truly representative as a lot of areas of writing were already at Level 4 - it's mainly creative writing where he struggles.

And this is where I am less sure. DS seems to have a huge mental block about creative writing. He just doesn't get it. He hates the actual act of putting pen to paper (he has refused this weekend to write a Christmas list) and will only do it when he absolutely has to so we encourage him to type or to say aloud what he might write when we are trying to work with him. His writing is "dull". We've tried story telling to come up with over the top, exaggerated sentences but if you tell him to enhance a sentence such as "the dog sat on the rug", he will think for ages and eventually come up with something like "the brown dog sat on the fluffy rug". He struggles with sentence openers, coming up with different sentence structures and using more interesting vocabulary. We've done lots of "games" at homes to try to encourage him to use more interesting words, have a thesaurus he can use (and make him do so) but every simple sentence is an uphill struggle. We also point out phrases/sentences in his reading book in the hope that he might emulate those in his writing. He doesn't. It doesn't help that 2 years younger DD is a bit of a writing whizz so he thinks of himself as "rubbish".

So where do we go from here? Obviously school are and will continue to work on it, as we will at home. Just wondered if anyone had come across such a child who genuinely struggled in the way DS is and how you tackled it?

HPFA Mon 17-Nov-14 12:51:09

My friend who is a dyslexia expert says it is quite possible to be dyslexic for writing rather than reading. This looked like a helpful article Does this sound like your son?

If you're sure that this is not the issue then he sounds rather like
my DD who has similar attitudes to Maths - i.e she doesn't like it and has little confidence in her ability to do it. This is what I've found helpful:

1)Accepting that she has a right not to like it. Whilst I appreciate that teachers want to encourage children to enjoy their learning sometimes I think this piles on extra pressure "Maths (or witing) is fun!!" What I now say is "Unfortunately it is essential for you to reach a certain standard in Maths. I know you don't like it and you wish it weren't so but it just is".

2) She does ten minutes a day extra Maths and we set a timer so she has confidence that the session will be short. This was her idea and I was very dubious as I thought she'd be just watching the seconds tick away all the time but the opposite has happened - she focuses completely on the Maths now she knows that she'll soon be saved by the Bell! DON'T be tempted to suggest they "just finish the question" when the Bell goes - that will ruin the whole thing.

3) Spend time looking for a good workbook. ~This is the writing equivalent of the Maths one I use with her and which I find excellent

She'll never be a Maths genius but she's making good progress and is gaining confidence.
I hope some of this is helpful. Best of luck to your son.

Betsy003 Mon 17-Nov-14 18:00:11

How much does he read? Id forget making him write when uninspired as he will dislike writing even more! Instead concentrate on finding addictive, inspiring, delightful books. Enable him to read daily before bed as routine. Help him get hooked on books and in return he will naturally and effortlessly develop and extend his writing and vocabulary. Instead of just one word (brown) to describe a dog, he will automatically have a broader and more interesting selection of words in the back of his mind. Reading is key.

You can also look at dyslexia to double check

kesstrel Mon 17-Nov-14 18:30:58

Does he have the same problems with non-fiction writing? That is, writing about a subject that interests him?

shebird Mon 17-Nov-14 19:32:41

There are so many components to writing and such a lot to remember, it is not unusual to have a higher reading level than writing, although in your DSs case i can understand your concern as it is quite a gap. It also sounds like he perhaps has a real lack of confidence in this area and this is not helping things.

Can you ask the teacher for specific areas to work on? The teacher must have a strategy in place to get him to this level in the next few months. How is he at expressing himself verbally?

rollonthesummer Mon 17-Nov-14 19:40:34

I'm confused-did he end year 4 on a 3b and is still on a 3b nearly four terms later?

SchoolWhizz Mon 17-Nov-14 22:02:09

Thanks for comments. I did wonder about dyslexia as his spelling is poor as well, though it does seem to be improving as he gets older.

He reads a lot, every day and quite a variety of things (he is currently reading the Hunger Games). He also likes being read to, so I tend to select things to read to him to expose him to different types of text. Every teacher has suggested that he should be able to transfer what he reads to what he writes, but it's not happened yet (he read, at his teacher's suggestion, a lot of books with descriptive passages in Y5).

his non-fiction writing is much better (once you get past the not liking to use pencil/pen) - he will type work that is of a higher quality.

Yes, he ended Y4 at level 3b. However his writing levels have gone up and down throughout his school career. Teachers have found him hard to level as his work is so inconsistent. 'I think he was a 3a at one point. I gave up looking at levels because they were like a yo-yo - I can see his writing has improved as he's gone along, but his creative writing has plateaued and it's that that's stopping him progressing really.

var123 Mon 17-Nov-14 22:16:35

dysgraphia could be an explanation if handwriting is also poor?

Does he ever play imaginatively?

kesstrel Tue 18-Nov-14 16:05:46

There are regular posts on here from parents of children, especially boys, with similar issues. Personally, I think it is wrong for the English syllabus to place so much emphasis on creative writing. It dates from the days 50 years ago when psychologists believed every child was a blank slate, with identical potential creative talents just needing to be nurtured; but they were wrong. And it's far more important that children learn to write coherent arguments, essays and reports. Which to judge from the poor quality of so many GCSE essays is something that many of them have not picked up from all this experience of writing stories.

I'm afraid I don't have much actual advice to offer, though. Is he able to vary his sentence structures in his non-fiction writing? If yes, then maybe it is stress/overload re the invention side of things that is preventing him from seeing how to do this in fiction? Maybe ignore the school and get him to do regular NON-fiction writing, in the hope that it will build confidence and fluency, and then when his brain is a bit more mature, he will be able to take a more analytical approach to how to churn out the required fiction? The only other thing I can think of to reduce the stress/cognitive load would be to provide a very detailed story framework before he starts writing, so he only has to think about the wording rather than what happens next?

kesstrel Tue 18-Nov-14 16:17:06

Oh, and thisomething that I found helped with my daughter was writing in the first person. Perhaps get him to write about something he has done, or an experience he has had, and then "translate" it into third person to become a story.

Plus it might help his confidence to emphasise to him that fiction writing skills will really much less valuable to him in the long run than the non-fiction skills he is developing more successfully; I think there is so much emphasis on stories and creativity in school as the most important goal of writing that he may have a distorted view, which is making him undervalue the skills he does have.

shebird Tue 18-Nov-14 19:32:07

As far as I am aware creative writing only form part of the overall literacy SATS in Y6, and this is teacher assessed with the rest made up of a reading paper and the spelling and grammar papers. If your DS finds the other areas of literacy less of a struggle then perhaps focus on these to build his confidence. Maybe this intense focus on just one area of literacy is just putting him off.

Mashabell Wed 19-Nov-14 07:14:23

How is your son's spelling?

Mine struggled with it and knew that he would nearly always get his work back with lots of sp all over it. This made him very reluctant to write anything for a while. - This is a common problem. And lots of children read much better than they can write, because learning to read English is vastly easier than learning to write the language.

I encouraged him to just concentrate on what he wanted to say and not to worry about the spelling - that would sort it itself out in the end.
It worked for him, but that may not be your sons problem.

Creative writing is certainly not the only useful sort. So turning any 'creative' topic into something that he knows a bit about is a good idea.

smee Wed 19-Nov-14 09:42:11

My son's dyslexic, but what's really freed him up was taking out the actual hand writing component. So we use mind maps (google if you don't know) to plan and then once he's worked out what he wants to say, he dictates and I type in his story or recount or whatever it is.

I know it sounds counter intuitive, but he went from writing barely anything and it being incredibly simple, to huge flowing imaginative stories or factual pieces in a heart beat. We did it with agreement with the teachers, so you could ask if it's worth a try. He still handwrites a lot in class so it's not that they've let him get away with not writing or anything, but they've also started using a dictaphone with him, then getting him to write just the first paragraph of whatever he's doing. His teachers have been brilliant so gave him loads of praise so now he not only knows he can write well but also that he's good at it. His mental block's completely gone.

var123 Wed 19-Nov-14 20:34:18

Last night, i scribed (he dictated and I typed verbatim) for Ds2 for the first time ever. He has dysgraphia. The difference in the quality of work was stunning. He is capable of sophisticated thought and language that I had no idea of.

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